January 5, 2021

The Giving Equation & Advent

Working Out Your Relationship With God and Money & Hearing the Good News!

Ken Long & Nathan Brown

68 1 6 8 8The Difference Between the Me- and the G-Economy

The Giving Equation: Working Out Your Relationship With God and Money, Ken Long, Signs Publishing, 2020, 86 pages, softcover. US$9.99 (Kindle edition). Reviewed by Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review.

When preachers get up in the pulpit and say that stewardship is not about money, they’re not being completely honest. Stewardship, as it is taught and practiced in most Christian settings, is all about money. That’s because it is the currency (pun intended) that drives everything we do as Christians.

Conference stewardship directors encourage faithfulness in giving. Tithes returned pay pastoral and administrators’ salaries, as well as some  teachers’ salaries. As members respond positively to church pastors extolling the virtues of faithful stewardship, local church ministries (schools, community services, and outreach activities) operate, serve the community, and promote the gospel.

Ken Long, author of The Giving Equation, knows this. But in this small book he goes beyond guilt (“Will someone rob God?”); beyond greed (“You’ll have more money than you’ll know what to do with”). Long emphasizes the spiritual component of giving—as a reflection of the selflessness and generosity of God.

In seven short, practical chapters, the author examines basic principles of biblical stewardship. Yes, there is material that readers will find familiar. But the book pivots from most books about stewardship as it outlines the difference between the me-economy and the God-economy.

The chapter “Compelling Case Studies” may be the most valuable, as the author unpacks several familiar Bible stories to reveal the true nature of stewardship in a culture that is often obsessed with wealth as a standard of success. An appendix with “Life Application Questions” corelates to the chapters and provide guides for personal reflection as well as small-group interactions.

Biblical stewardship is about money, but it’s about more than money. It’s about entering into a partnership with God through which we dedicate to Him all that we have—our time, our influence, and yes, our money.

The Giving Equation is an easy read and a useful review for longtime believers. It also serves as an introduction for those just getting started in their walk with Christ, a primer about the fundamental Christian teaching of biblical stewardship.

68 2 0 9Good News When We Need It

Advent: Hearing the Good News in the Story of Jesus’ Birth, Nathan Brown, Signs Publishing, 2020, 135 pages, US$9.99. Reviewed by Stephen Chavez, Adventist Review.

A book about Christ’s Nativity in January is either slightly off the mark or the perfect way to begin a year that promises to be just as physically, emotionally, and spiritually chaotic as the one we just said goodbye to.

Actually, Nathan Brown’s latest book, Advent, arrived in our office in November—too late to read and write a review for our December issue. But it’s just as well, lest it be lost in the confusion of a pandemic-cursed holiday season. The beginning of the new year—before the challenges and resolutions become too stale—is the perfect time to focus on Christ, the miracle of His birth, and the supreme role He continues to play in our personal and corporate spiritual lives.

Brown, a native of Australia, is no stranger to readers of Adventist Review and Adventist World. His books and magazine articles have engaged and challenged readers in North America, the South Pacific, and around the world. He manages to comunicate the timeless truths of Scripture to a society that seems increasingly secular, materialistic, and apathetic.

The advent highlighted in the title of the book is not only about the birth of the Baby in Bethlehem—it’s also an examination of the prophecies that led to that singular event, as well as a preview of His selfless life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. It unpacks the implications of this powerful question: “If the incarnation of Jesus changed everything, why is the world still so broken?”

The book is a wonderful examination of Christ’s birth through a series of 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. (Coincidence? I think not.) Each chapter has a one-word title, some predictable, as in “Anticipated,” “Unexpected,” “Pre-existing”; others with darker connotations, such as “Conflict,” “Revolution,” “Outsiders.” The idea is that Jesus’ first advent brought with it implications that play out starkly in the great controversy.

One of the book’s great strengths is the author’s citation of Christian writers that many of us are not usually exposed to, but whose voices have enlightened and engaged believers throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Apt quotations from the likes of Frederick Buechner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Walter Brueggemann, C. S. Lewis, and N. T. Wright punctuate the author’s attempts to describe the miracle of Christ’s advent.

Those of us who have survived a deadly pandemic, divisive social upheaval, and a contentious political season owe it to ourselves during this new year to anchor ourselves to Him about whom it was said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . . . And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

We meet Him in Advent.